Hawaii officials a step closer to pre-flight COVID-19 tests for all visitors

Update: a plan to open Hawaii tourism with a negative COVID-19 test was announced.


Many Hawaii lawmakers see a process of screening tourists as a way to reopen tourism. Last week, we shared the concept of COVID-19 testing that Lt. Gov. Josh Green is proposing.

Yesterday, Hawaii news outlets reported that the local house of representatives have worked with the federal administration to determine that it is permissible to require COVID testing prior to arrival. From the Star-Advertiser,

“The lawmakers said Wednesday that they’ve learned that regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration or the United States Department of Transportation don’t prohibit the state from requiring COVID-19 testing.”

This news could be the first step in reopening tourism to Hawaii. If travelers pre-test with a negative result, they would be free to explore Hawaii without the current mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Proposed process for reopening Hawaii’s tourism

In a 23-page document, Making Hawaii Safe For Travel, presented by Representative Bob Mcdermott, the following proposed framework outlines the process. Note we’ve bolded some of the text that we feel is most relevant for Hawaii tourists:

1) Governor David Ige must petition the Federal Government to require all Hawaii bound passengers be tested within 72 hours prior to arrival. Until then we will implement the following steps.

2) Request ALL travelers be tested up to 72 hours prior to their departure to Hawaii. Travelers can get a rapid test and have the negative results electronically transmitted to the airline with an identifying record number. Travelers that test positive shall receive a full refund of airfare and not travel to Hawaii.

3) All travelers receive a temperature screen and board the airplane with negative COVID-19 test results bound for Hawaii.

4) While we cannot legally mandate testing nor infringe one’s right to travel, we can ensure travelers are aware of the consequences of not being tested prior to arrival. We shall inform travelers they have a final chance to obtain a COVID-19 test at the airport or they will quarantine for 14 days. Testing at the airport will be cumbersome and could take up to 12 hours. If the traveler tests positive, they will be quarantined.

5) The first preference is for travelers to be tested prior to departing for Hawaii but back up airport testing will be available for those who arrive without being tested. The National Guard shall oversee this effort. We suggest they use Abbott Rapid test machines. A sufficient quantity (100 Machines @ 4 tests per hour/ 400 *24 = 9600 per day capacity) should be available within 30 to 60 days to meet the residual demand of arrivals who are not already tested.

6) National Guard shall assist in the enforcement of the quarantine of ALL non-tested or positive testing arrivals. Quarantine must be strict as outlined in our letters to the Governor (attached) and must include returning Hawaii residents. The state shall designate a safe location for the quarantine. We suggest that this be run by MG Hara and the National Guard. Gov. Ige said the 14 Day-Quarantine was a huge success. It was a success in the sense of keeping visitors away, but in tracking visitors and returning residents, it has proven unenforceable and ultimately useless.

7) In addition to predeparture testing, the airline shall ensure travel declaration forms are submitted, accurate and verified. This is critical in case contact tracing is required. The Department of Health (DOH) shall oversee the contact tracing efforts when needed.

8) Visitors shall be tested every seven calendar days by a local testing facility approved by the DOH during their stay.

9) To ensure the safety of airport, airline and travel-related employees all departures require testing.

10) All visitor industry employees shall be tested once a week. Testing shall be free to employees and coordinated by the employer and respective labor groups.

Once again, please note that this is in proposal form at the moment.

What’s next?

From a legislative standpoint, we aren’t privy to those details, but it’s clear that Governor Ige and other Hawaii lawmakers will need to approve such measures. The Governor has indicated that he wants a screening process.

Obviously, many logistics will need to be ironed out before these recommendations can be implemented. Not the least of these issues is the current lack of available testing. Some have suggested that travelers can simply go to their local CVS or Walgreens and obtain a rapid test. Those tests aren’t easily procured at the moment. COVID testing at Walgreens is only available in 16 states, while CVS COVID testing is available in just eight states. So, the capacity for testing will really need to ramp up. Also, the qualifications for testing will need to be expanded so that travelers to Hawaii can have access to them.

It’s not a perfect plan

Clearly, this plan is not without flaws. For example, getting a negative test 72 or even 48 hours before flying to Hawaii does not insure that you won’t get the virus.

This proposed plan is also not an ideal situation, but it could possibly be the solution to allow tourism while providing a level of protection to Hawaii’s citizens.

Additional sources for this article and for further reading:

This situation is evolving so subscribe to our free email updates to be alerted to new Hawaii travel information as well as our ongoing Hawaii travel advice.

  1. I’m strongly looking at the option of cancelling my upcoming in August. I’m also not sure that I want to return to the islands ever. I’ve listened to a number of the updates that the Governor has held and have seen a number of posts where residents of Hawaii have been saying its people from the mainland who disrespect any laws in Hawaii. Having been to the islands at least once a year for several decades – its not just mainlanders who disrespect the laws in Hawaii. I feel from this, the Hawaiian Government has lost all of the aloha spirit it’s had in the past and my fear (with what I read on Facebook and other Hawaii related travel blogs) is that the residents have, as well. They have a huge selling effort that will be required to get visitors back!

        1. Numerous… but just a couple of examples off the top of my head at the moment:
          – Lots of unwelcoming comments and the hopes that tourism fails.
          – Vilification of visitors with some people blaming all of Hawaii’s unemployment because of visitors. Additionally, some people blaming all of Hawaii’s Coronavirus cases on visitors despite 80% and probably of the cases were brought in by residents who traveled outside of the state. This was in the news that the DOH was concerned about a growing stigma towards visitors.

          Even the Director of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, Hara, has expressed concern about the vilification of visitors and finding a way to keep relations on good terms. That was also in the news.

          1. that’s too bad. I understand the frustration but I’m not sure how unemployment is on visitors. And a major biting of the hand that feeds you…I hope my trip to Kauai in mid-October can happen

  2. I don’t think that your proposed requirements are unreasonable. We are currently doing everything we can to stay safe. All one has to see is the affect the partial opening is having on the country – all of the bad statistics are climbing. We’re freaking out about being on the plane with other people possibly having the virus. It would be very comforting to know that all of the us crammed together on the plane have been tested. I know you’re trying to keep Hawaii a paradise and who can blame you? I think it’s a great idea.
    Good luck on getting this proposal passed! I’m with you! (We would cancel our trip in November if we had to quarantine for ten days).

  3. I agree with Larry G. I have been a Hawaii resident for 20 plus years and built hotels and condominiums in Hawaii during my career. I have dealt with the myopic Hawaii government and its officials during all of those years. Now as a retiree living on the mainland, I cannot return to a vacation home on Oahu due to the fear that Hawaii officials breed to their residents and visitors. I am considering selling and never returning to Hawaii. There are beautiful places with beautiful beaches elsewhere in the world that are much more welcoming. This continued closure will destroy Hawaii and its tourism business. I will surely make it known to my friends we are not welcome there. What about Hawaii people (kamaaina) who need to visit their friends and family on the mainland or elsewhere? What happens when they have to return home? Are they given a “free” pass to get off the plane to go their residence without the quarantine and testing, versus we malahini. Hawaii has lost its compass and will regret these decisions. Tourism, along with all the taxes it creates that support its economy will disappear, creating a depression. There are a myriad of business endeavors that will also disappear due to the decisions by government officials, affecting every economic strata in its economy. Governor Ige and the legislature should have serious consideration of who pays for those needing to work and make a living in Hawaii Nei.

  4. I was planning to take my family on a cruise to Hawaii, with stops on Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Oahu. The cruise is supposed to run in January 2021. I am not going to take a chance on this and have decided against booking the cruise. If the virus returns, I can easily see Hawaii re-imposing quarantines that would destroy any ability to actually see Hawaii. What’s the purpose of going on a cruise if you can’t land? Hawaii has lost all credibility in my eyes as a place to visit. The state seems to hate tourists and make it as difficult as possible for them to come. Fine, I’ll stay away — permanently. There are a lot of other places in the world with beautiful beaches that actually welcome tourists.

  5. My family has passed away in Maui and we haven’t been able to come there because of COVID-19 to have funerals. We have booked Sept 20 to Oct 2 I pray it works out. Tears please advise me what to do.

    1. Sorry for your loss. We hope that you will be able to come to Maui as planned.

      Continue to follow our site for updates.

  6. Aloha is alive in Hawaii. There is no doubt a certain group of person who resist, disrespect, discourage visitors. This only a very small percentage. But unfortunately this is a loud group. Please understand that a large majority of people who call Hawaii home COME from the mainland. Ask business owners where they come from. You’re going to find a large majority come from the mainland. Even in the Garden isle. Aloha to all. You are loved by a majority of the people who call Hawaii home.

  7. It would be nice to at least get a straight answer on the testing requirement.
    I see 72 hours prior to arrival. I see 72 hours prior to their departure. What if it is a connection flight? Is that 72 hours from the first flight or 72 hours from the second.
    Given that it is difficult even with 72 hours but do need to take the test as close to the 72 hour mark to increase the odds. What if the test result does not come back in 72 hours. Can you self-quarentine until you get the result?

    1. There’s no “straight answer” because they’ve not announced the details of the plan. At this point they’ve only announced that there will be a plan. Hopefully we’ll hear details next week.

  8. I am a Senior Citizen and resident of the Big Island. Here on our Island the large majority of Hawaiians followed all of the rules. We do not go out to restaurants, or to gathering ( like our canoe club) we always wear masks and stay at least 6 ft apart in grocery stores. We do not have large funerals or family gatherings. As of today July 1 we have had 87 cases and 85 people have recovered. We are watching news from the mainland of people not wearing masks, not social distancing and frankly not caring if they spread the virus. So if you have a problem wearing a mask do not come to our Island. You will not be welcome.

  9. Ms. Beal: My wife and I made an attempt to fly out on the 15th … this coming week. The conundrum is this: NO LAB IN CALIFORNIA CAN TEST AND PROCESS WITHIN 72 HOURS preceding takeoff. Two informed sources (lab testers) indicate that the AVERAGE turnaround time is 10 days! That is further exacerbated by Hawaiian Airlines’ requirement to accept results from a very limited selection of testers (see their website for small list). NONE can affect a turn-around test/report cycle within the 72-hour limit of the Hawaiian government; that negates travel from CA. Shame on us, we made the reservations because Hawaii is our beloved spot and we need a break from the Mainland’s insanity. Making, then subsequently breaking the hotel, airline, rental car and airport parking fees cost us over $700 in cancellation penalties. That hurt, as I am a 72-year-old Combat Disabled Veteran and my wife is functionally blind. We do not have money to discard. We rebooked for 4 – 18 November, praying that the Hawaiian government and airlines will find a solution that provides safety for ALL involved, and works in practicality (72 hours for a current infection full test cannot be accomplished in CA, and Hawaiian Airlines’ limitation on vendors further diminishes the probability of ability to comply). Hawaii has been our “happy place” for the past 5 years. I have been COVID-19 tested by the Veterans Administration 4 times in the past 4 months for visits for VA medical visits, all negative, and my wife is an RN. We wear our masks and/or social distance. I have to exercise an abundance of caution in all circumstances because of Agent Orange medical conditions. We have but a few days to cancel our next attempt before we lose more money, betting on hope. Please forward this and/or pass to me the addresses of those who might influence the emerging policy. The interim one in place does not work! I had the honor of working on a project for, and meeting the late Senator Dan Inouye in my post-Navy career. He was the embodiment of the Aloha Spirit. I wish he were still here to influence this decision in his common-sense fashion. William J. Harris, LCDR, USN (Ret)

    1. Hello Mr. Harris,

      Thank you for your comment and more importantly for your service, sir!

      It was heartbreaking to hear of the issues you’ve had while trying to comply with Hawaii’s new travel rules and losing money in the process.

      Our Go Visit Hawaii site is independent and not part of Hawaii government in any way, but we’ll do our best to pass along your issues and concerns.

      The state has recently announced 17 testing partners. They’re requiring that tests will only be accepted from those approved testing partners. Some of them are promising very quick turn arounds. See this link for the list of testing partners: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/

      We hope that you will be able to enjoy your rescheduled trip to Hawaii!

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